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7/18/03 - IRAN’S RICH RULERS - 2003-07-19

Iran’s extremist Muslim clerical rulers are self-appointed, not elected by the people. Most of Iran’s rulers are also very rich. Where did these self-proclaimed religious men get all this wealth? Not from God. They stole it from the Iranian people.

No wonder so many Iranians have been protesting against the clerical regime in recent weeks. They are sick of being poor while their unjust rulers waste the country’s resources on support for international terrorism, developing nuclear weapons -- and enriching themselves.

Iran has the potential to be a very wealthy country. As senior editor Paul Klebnikov points out in the business magazine, Forbes, Iran has some nine percent of the world’s oil and fifteen percent of its natural gas. But while most countries have become much better off in recent decades, Mr. Klebnikov says that per capita income in Iran today is seven percent below what it was before the 1979 Islamic revolution.

In the wake of that revolution, Iran’s clerical rulers took over the state oil industry and seized such private assets as banks, hotels, and automobile, chemical, and drug companies. Many of these assets were given to so-called Islamic charitable foundations, which generate millions of dollars for Iran’s clerical rulers and their supporters.

Among those who have risen to great wealth in Iran, says the Forbes magazine article, are Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his family. Rafsanjani was the speaker of parliament in the 1980s and president from 1989 to 1997. Now he is chairman of the aptly-named “Expediency Council,” which resolves disputes between the clerical establishment and the reform-minded parliament. As Iranians are only too well aware, the disputes nearly always seem to be resolved in favor of the clerics.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the U.S. has “made clear where our sentiments lie”:

“They lie with those who support reform. They lie with those who support democracy. They lie with those who are out calling for more reform and democracy in Iran.”

Like people everywhere, Iranians deserve freedom, including the right to choose their own government and the right to share in their country’s wealth.